A very common misconception is that healthy foods, by themselves, promote weight loss. That is, eating healthy, little by little, body weight will decrease. When this does not happen, frustration appears accompanied by a question, Why is it difficult to lose weight?
If human beings have not become extinct, it is because, like their fellow humans, which inhabit nature, the body is a pure survival instinct. Therefore, it has several regulators that balance both consumption and energy savings, to maintain vital functions through homeostasis. In addition, there are other actors involved, such as adipose tissue, more friend than foe that started to generate hatred since the human being began to obsess over his physique.
The food intake has different functions for living beings, the regeneration and creation of tissues, the synthesis of molecules necessary to carry out bodily functions and the calories or energy, which is needed for the different metabolic processes of the organism, from maintaining body heat to muscular movements .
The fundamental building blocks that make the body alive are proteins, lipids, carbohydrates and adenosine triphosphate, a fundamental molecule for the synthesis of complex macromolecules, such as DNA, RNA or proteins. It provides the necessary energy to enable certain chemical reactions in the body.
The balance between the energy that is needed to carry out the aforementioned and that consumed is relatively fragile. Since naturally, living beings have evolved to have mechanisms that store that energy leftover, when more is ingested, with the anticipation that food may be lacking in the future. This advantage is what drives many people upside down, especially when summer arrives.
This compensation of “forces” is what is called energy balance and is defined as the state reached, when energy intake equals energy expenditure. This dynamic concept seems simple at first glance, when energy expenditure exceeds energy intake, weight is lost. In the event that the intake exceeds the expenditure, weight is gained. Also, when more calories are ingested than needed, the human body stores them.
Therefore, its control is so important that the Spanish Society of Internal Medicine launched a campaign this year, raising awareness about the dangers of obesity, which suffers 23% of the Spanish population. “A person can eat healthy foods, but if they eat too much, there would be no balance between the calories ingested and those expended. A good example is the existence of overweight or obese vegetarians ”, explains María Carmen Japaz, a dietician and nutritionist to EL ESPAÑOL. If more calories are ingested than are expended, the body’s response is to gain weight. If this is maintained over time, as a habit, overweight will appear.
Therefore, the appropriate thing would be to ingest calories based on basal metabolism, that is, the required amount of energy for the functioning of the organism’s processes. Broken down, it would be between 60 and 70% of the energy consumed, with 30% being used for digestion and physical activity.
Balance is the key
It must be taken into account that, in each person, depending on their age, their state of health and even their sex, the perfect energy balance is different. For example, in the case of women, the menstrual cycle, pregnancy or breastfeeding can affect your energy balance.
If you are not obese, weight is not a determining factor. A person could perfectly achieve his energy balance, acquiring some healthy lifestyle in the long term, that allow you to maintain it, not consuming more calories than you need, to carry out your daily activities.
Avoid falling into the error of eating healthy food in large quantities, believing that in this way its benefits will be enhanced. “For example, this happens with avocado, nuts, dark chocolate or olive oil. A priori, all healthy, but in what quantity? ”, Emphasizes the nutritionist.
“These foods should be consumed in small amounts, in moderation, since despite the beneficial fatty acids they contain, they provide a lot of calories. What supposes an extra energy that many times we are not going to spend, therefore, it will be stored in the form of body fat. Increasing our percentage of body fat is what should be avoided, ”adds Japaz.
One of the examples that the expert gives is gazpacho, a preparation of healthy and fresh food, but due to its high potassium content, it is not indicated for patients with chronic renal failure, in advanced stages. Also, if instead of being homemade, it is bought ready-made, the high salt and oil content can contribute to weight gain and raise blood pressure.
Fat is the body’s most efficient form to conserve energy. This has evolved to the level of having specific cells specialized in this task, adipocytes, which form adipose tissue, whose main role is to store triglycerides during energy intake and release fatty acids when energy expenditure exceeds this.
Adipocytes also catabolize triglycerides, in order to release glycerol and fatty acids, which participate in the metabolism of glucose in the liver and other tissues, that is, they help maintain the insulin sensitivity status.
Collaborating in this entire process of burning fat and spending accumulated energy, the pancreas produces a type of enzyme, lipase, which breaks down triglycerides, releasing fatty acids that are used in the muscles as fuel.
It should be noted that in addition to storing energy, this tissue protects the organs and produces hormones to regulate appetite, such as leptin. The absence of this tissue causes lipid deposition in the liver, muscles, and pancreas, which is called lipotoxicity. Its consequences are the appearance of hepatic steatosis and fibrosis, in addition to insulin resistance, among other things. In turn, the expansion of adipose tissue is linked to diabetes mellitus, associated with obesity.
In short, to maintain balance in the body’s energy balance, diet has the power to be beneficial or harmful. Therefore, eating a healthy diet does not entail losing weight, if you are ingesting more calories than the body needs to develop vital functions and carry out daily activities.